L ITT LE NIGHTMARES
The creepy horror-platformer full of little (terrifying) surprises PublisheR Bandai Namco Developer TArsier Studios Format Xbox One ETA 28 April 2017
You know that cold shiver that travels up your back when you see something that’s not quite right? A painting’s eyes moving, or haunting faces in spackled walls – not the all-out horror of zombies jumping out from behind corners – but that feeling of something sinister gently leaning over you a bit too closely and stroking your arm. That’s what playing Little Nightmares feels like.
It’s wholly unlike conventional horror games where you can blast nasty things with shotguns or hide in lockers. Instead you play as a young girl called Six who navigates her way through a series of creepy puzzles and platforming sections in a bid to escape The Maw – an underwater house of horrors brimming with corrupted souls eager to munch on your little yellow-anoraked head.
Visually it feels a bit like walking through a Tim Burton set – everyday objects feel twisted and gnarled, and limbs are completely out of proportion. Each room you enter is unnaturally tall and gives the impression that the world is looming over you. It’s unnerving, especially as the fantastic lighting keeps you guessing with flickers and tactile dimness.
In our hands-on demo we have to creep past a squat man with a melted face and long, thin, spider-like arms (*shudder*) that constantly tap the floor searching for you. He’s completely blind but can hear the slightest creak in the floorboards and will quickly snatch up your tiny body and press you to his ear if you make any noise. The sight of other grey children trapped in cages in his lair imply that this won’t end well.
While each room is viewed from a set angle (kind of like a doll’s house) you can look around with the Left Stick to assess your surroundings. There are drawers to climb, boxes to hide in and noisy toys strewn around the floor to avoid. There’s always a larger puzzle to look for in each room you enter – in this case dashing between sound-dampening patches of soft carpet that your touchy-feely adversary can’t hear you on.
It’s not always clear what you need to do, and spotting the difference between surfaces you can and can’t climb is quite tricky. The platforming bits also boast more Limbo- esque floatyness than Mario-like precision, so can be mildly frustrating at times, though the charm of Little Nightmares’ art design and unsettling atmosphere more than make up for that.
Here we find a fresh breed of terror from the Resis and the Outlasts, one that trades on the imagined monsters-in-closets of our childhoods over bloody gore. This is one to watch out for from behind your sofa.
“We have to creep past a man with a melted face and spider-like arms”
Above Spoiler alert: those long, long arms aren’t for giving better hugs.
below Not everything is nasty – you’ll find these little friends hidden around The Maw.